August 13, 2007

Democrats: We Fear Hillary

The nomination of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate for President appears to be the most clear point in a murky primary. She has consistently led the field since the start of the year, and the Clinton political machine has trained for this moment for six years. Barack Obama's recent foreign-policy stumbles seem to have reversed his momentum, and no one else has the standing to challenge Hillary.

Does that frighten Republicans? Not as much as it does Democrats, according to the AP's Ron Fournier:

Looking past the presidential nomination fight, Democratic leaders quietly fret that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton at the top of their 2008 ticket could hurt candidates at the bottom.

They say the former first lady may be too polarizing for much of the country. She could jeopardize the party's standing with independent voters and give Republicans who otherwise might stay home on Election Day a reason to vote, they worry.

In more than 40 interviews, Democratic candidates, consultants and party chairs from every region pointed to internal polls that give Clinton strikingly high unfavorable ratings in places with key congressional and state races. ...

"The argument with Hillary right now in some of these red states is she's so damn unpopular," said Andy Arnold, chairman of the Greenville, S.C., Democratic Party. "I think Hillary is someone who could drive folks on the other side out to vote who otherwise wouldn't. ... Republicans are upset with their candidates," Arnold added, "but she will make up for that by essentially scaring folks to the polls."

Why the fear? Wouldn't having a Clinton back in the White House thrill Democrats who hate the Bush era? Wouldn't having a woman at the top of the ticket inspire voters and extend the gender gap in 2008? No, apparently not -- and it will backfire on Democrats where they are most vulnerable.

The Democrats won Congress last year because they convinced voters in center-right districts to dump Republicans and support center-right Democrats. That's what got Heath Shuler and a few dozen Blue Dogs elected to Congress -- that, and some ennui from Republicans disgusted with the free-spending GOP Congresses and White House. Those districts remain center-right, and they also remain vulnerable, especially since the Democrats have started spending more than the Republicans and want to start raising taxes to pay for the spending.

Now they will top that off by nominating Hillary Clinton, the bete noir of conservatives. The effect of both together will be to rally burnt-out conservatives and center-right voters unhappy with the earmark-happy 110th Congress. It will create a reaction that could undermine any effort by the Democrats to retain the House, and might even impact their ability to extend their majority in the Senate. It's the reverse of coattails; it's a call to arms for the GOP.

This is what Karl Rove meant when he called Hillary Clinton a "fatally flawed" candidate. She carries a built-in self-destruct device for the Democrats. Despite the efficacy of the Clinton political machine, a large and growing number of people in America do not want to extend the Bush-Clinton control of the White House for another four or eight years, nor do they want the bitter partisanship that portends. Her personal negatives only underscore that impulse.

In 2008, voters will want something new and fresh. That doesn't describe Hillary Clinton, and the Democrats know it.


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Comments (19)

Posted by athingortwo | August 13, 2007 8:10 AM

Nice post, Cap'n. We hear so many Republicans and media types going on about how dispirited the Pubs are in this cycle. Actually, I think nothing could be further from the truth. Things are actually going our way in Iraq for a change, the Defeatocrats in Congress are already in full surrender mode, the Dem-controlled Congress has the lowest poll ratings on record, and the Dems are well on their way towards nominating the one true Poster Child of pure unadulterated Republican disgust - Hillary Rodham Clinton - as the top of their ticket.

A Republican victory is still no shoe-in ... but if Her Thighness on the ballot can't get red-blooded Pubbies up in full-throated roar, I don't know what else could.

Posted by William Teach | August 13, 2007 8:24 AM

Having done the dumpster dive thing at seethe farms like the DU and Huff Post, among others, for years now, I can tell you part of the problem is that Hillary refused to invalidate her Iraq war vote, and they still think she hasn't (and she really hasn't.) That sets them off in their normal seething way.

Also, they understand that she is not Bill, and, believe it or not, they do not really want a woman in the WH. They also see her as a war mongerer and a toady to Big Corporation.

This is why very weak candidates such as Obama and the Silke Pony are still hanging. I am still surprised that more of the Nutroots have not gravitated to Bill Richardson.

Posted by Anna D | August 13, 2007 8:26 AM

This is so true. I was a flaming liberal once (even voted for Michael Dukakis for President) but after just two years of Bill & Hill (mostly Hill), I flipped and have been a Republican ever since.

Posted by Bennett | August 13, 2007 8:32 AM

It seems that the point of this article, that Hillary Clinton is so repugnant to some voters that they will come out in droves to defeat her, would only be important if there are actually enough of those kinds of votes to matter. While it's true that some conservative voters view her that way, I haven't gotten the impression all moderate and independent voters do (which is just another way to describe center-left and center-right voters).

Plus I think it's going to depend on the Republican candidate, how driven probable Dem voters are to come out in droves and vote against that person. Finally, if the country was so intent on fresh new faces we wouldn't keep electing so many of the same people back to Congress in almost every cycle (1994 and 2006 notwithstanding).

Hillary has one huge thing going in her favor. The mainstream media. It came pretty close to delivering 2004 to Kerry and I can see a really big push to do the same for Hillary Clinton in 2008.

Posted by Realist | August 13, 2007 8:36 AM

With all due respect, you are whistling past the graveyard. Hillary WILL be our next president. The anti-Hillary vote will be split by a third-party candidate supported by the Clinton machine (McCain?). Remember Ross Perot?

It's a done deal. Get used to it and get used to saying "Madame President."

Posted by Jerry | August 13, 2007 8:40 AM


If there is a thrid party candidate in will be Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He is a stock in trade nanny state liberal and if he has any success it will be to take votes away from Hillary or any other Democrat. A Bloomberg presense will put a lof the NE in play for the Republicans.

Posted by Jazz | August 13, 2007 9:00 AM

First of all, for the record, until the situation in Iraq is resolved one way or the other, there is still nearly no way that I will consider voting for a Republican for the WH in 08. The only two conditions that would change that were if both: 1.) Polls made it look like the Democrats were on their way to a supermajority in Congress, *and* 2.) The GOP candidate were a center moderate from near my home stomping grounds, such as from the Guiliani / Pataki / Olympia Snowe camp. (People most of you would sneeringly refer to as "Republican Lite" or RINOs.)

With that said, I see yet another potential nightmare coming up for the Democrats, eerily reminiscent of 2004. Much like in the last elections, with the twin albatrosses of George W. Bush and Iraq around the necks of the Republicans, early polls (and I recognize, far too early to put hard stock in) are already indicating that any GOP candidate up against a "generic Democratic candidate" will likely lose. As i pointed out in '04, the Dems could probably put up a one eyed, three legged syphlitic basset hound named "Spot" and Spot could probably eek out a slim margin of victory.

However, again as in 2004, the Dems look like they may well find a candidate who can manage to lose even under those conditions.

I can not and will not vote for Hillary Clinton for President in '08, and I live in New York and am currently totally disgusted with the GOP at the national level. She just has too many huge negatives for me which would stop me from pushing the lever under any circumstances. If it comes down to her against Romney, or Thompson, or whoever, I'll wind up wasting a vote on the the Libertarian, some other third party candidate, or I'll write one in for my cat.

I'm afraid that a lot of other people will feel the same way. The Democrats, as I see it, would almost have to *try* to lose the White House in '08, but if they stay on this course and put up Hillary, it seems like they're cetainly going to take a run at it.

Democrats... snatching defeat from the jaws of victory since 2000. (TM)

Posted by Burt | August 13, 2007 9:13 AM

With the present mood of the country, I foresee a Democrat president in 2008. The only way I see for the Democrats to lose is to run someone who actually stole silverware from the White House. Oh.... Wait....

Posted by electric ferret | August 13, 2007 9:38 AM

Americans aren't paying attention right now.

When they Do... which will be a couple months before the general election... and they think about Bush then Clinton then Bush then Clinton again they'll push the button for someone else.

Posted by docjim505 | August 13, 2007 10:14 AM

Bennett wrote (August 13, 2007 8:32 AM):

Hillary has one huge thing going in her favor. The mainstream media. It came pretty close to delivering 2004 to Kerry and I can see a really big push to do the same for Hillary Clinton in 2008.

BINGO! Anybody remember "Saint Hillary" and the other enthusiastic MSM stories about her when she and Slick Willie first got into the White House? Look for an avalanche of similar coverage if / when she becomes the dem nominee. Polls (which are apparently vital to democrat voters as they haven't got minds of their own) will come out showing that Americans are eager for a woman president, that Hillary is absolutely trustworthy, that she's perceived as strong on defense, etc, etc.

Who was it that admitted that the MSM was in the tank for Kerry in '04, and it would be worth 15% for him? Think the media will change its ways just because a grasping shrew replaces a wooden Benedict Arnold? Think again.

Posted by Bennett | August 13, 2007 10:19 AM

"Who was it that admitted that the MSM was in the tank for Kerry in '04, and it would be worth 15% for him?"

Evan Thomas of Newsweek

Posted by bebula | August 13, 2007 10:23 AM

A whole generation of Americans has grown up seeing two political families dominate the Presidency with more to come. The 20-year streak of Bush -- Clinton -- Bush may very well continue with another 8 years of a Clinton. Then there's the specter of Jeb Bush, Chelsea Clinton, etc.

This is not how America is supposed to work.

Posted by athingortwo | August 13, 2007 10:24 AM

Realist - what are you smoking? There is no Republican who is going to go third party this cycle .. not McCain, not anybody. If Nurse Bloomberg runs, he'll only draw Dem votes .. nobody who would even think of voting Republican would be drawn by Bloomie ... there is no comparison whatsoever to the pseudo-Libertarian draw of Ross Perot and Bloomberg .. they are polar opposites.

It's by no means a slam dunk for Republicans to defeat Her Evil Thighness. But keep in mind, she has spent the last 7 years burying the hatchet, so to speak, on all of the gory ugliness of the TwoFer years ... Whitewater, missing Rose law records, sleepovers in the Lincoln Bedroom, courting Chinese Communist funds for the Reelect Bill stuff, not to mention her complete humiliation in the HillaryCare debacle ... it's been almost half a generation since all those headlines disappeared .... and still Hillary Clinton has by far the highest negatives in the candidate polling this cycle ... a solid majority of Americans say they'll never for for Hillary Clinton.

Then consider how in the general election campaign, all the sordid stuff is going to be fair game again (it won't be in the Dem primaries), and Hillary's negatives have nowhere to go but up.

That's why we're seeing in the MSM the musings of down-ballot candidates who are already worrying about Hillary Clinton's reverse coattails effect in '08.

As long as the Republicans nominate a strong fighter as their candidate, someone who can give at least as good as they take, then there is at least a 50/50 chance that Hillary Clinton will be the last we'll see of the Little Rock Royal Family in national political circles.

Posted by Neo | August 13, 2007 10:26 AM

"We're still playing around with the question: Is he black enough?"

Seems this isn't just a question for Obama. Hiliary get the same question.

When will the MSM get over it ?

Posted by LarryD | August 13, 2007 10:43 AM

Bennet, in the polls I've read about, Hillary's negatives were bad even among independents and moderates.

See table 5 from this Harris Poll, for example.

Posted by Bennett | August 13, 2007 11:26 AM

"in the polls I've read about, Hillary's negatives were bad even among independents and moderates."

I'm sure they were. But in the actual election, if she's the candidate campaigning against the Republican nominee, will people find her distasteful enough to (1) actually come out and vote and (2) vote against her? That seemed to be the point of the article, that she would mobilize voters to come and vote against her, people who might not even vote or might have considered voting for the Dem candidate if it were anyone but Hillary.

Personally I think this is all so much hoo haa anyway. I predict here and now that the final voting tally for the 2008 election will be just like every other election in recent memory, close and down to a few key states at the end, regardless of who the respective nominees are. Election night will be all about Florida and Michigan and Nevada or some other close combination.

It's a 50/50 country and since neither party is going to field a sea change candidate like Reagan, I doubt we'll see much flipping from one side to the other.

Posted by patrick neid | August 13, 2007 1:12 PM

While her personal negatives are higher than the other candidates it is her economic policies that are more damaging. However the repub candidate will have to be very careful deconstructing her progressive/socialist agenda so as not to be labeled a "red scare monger".

Even a casual perusal of her policies will show there is very little that differentiates her from acknowledged European socialist party platforms. Her and her crew mean to reshape the American economy. For many of the uneducated it is very seductive. The emotionalism of "your entitled", the mainstay of socialism/communism, turns out the vote.
This was part of Kennedy's plan for legalizing all the uneducated illegals. Those 10 million votes could turn every future election.

Posted by Paul Milenkovic | August 13, 2007 4:56 PM

"We're still playing around with the question: Is he black enough?"

To the extent that Hillary Clinton while not racially black is the black candidate, Senator Obama is in actuality the Serb candidate, and if you haven't already been reading the Chicago newspapers, you will see the Clinton camp bring this obscure slice of Illinois ethnic-identify politics to your attention as the race progresses.

The way I see it, Clinton is a strong brand name among black voters. Bill Clinton made a connection to black voters as someone who had their interests at heart that goes beyond the usual liberal/conservative Democrat/Republican labels.

That Senator Clinton makes patronizing comments about "plantations" and lapses into that goofy Southern accent that fools nobody, this only matters to white conservatives who vainly thinks such clumsiness hurts the Senator. Hillary Clinton is of the Clinton brand, and to brand loyalists, her awkward attempt to be Bill is of no consequence because her heart is judged to be in same place as her husband's.

While white-liberal-anti-war elites are concerned about Hillary Clinton and are in anybody-but-Clinton mindset, Senator Clinton's appeal is to such traditional core Democratic constituencies as blacks, labor, and others.

I mean, who would have thought that a pampered rich person, a lawyer of questionable legal talent who once worked for Joe McCarthy of all people and got to high places by virtue of family ties, with a hot temper, son of a rum-running Nazi-coddling Hollywood mogul and political influence peddler, a New York Senator with questionable bona fides regarding opposition to an unpopular war, that such a person would become the dream candidate of the minority, the poor, and the downtrodden. That New York Senator, with equally high negatives among conservatives as well as the white anti-war-liberal elites, could have become President were it not for an Orthodox Christian from Lebanon being off his nut.

Hillary Clinton is a force to be reckoned with, and people relying on her natural negatives are dreaming.

Posted by ira | August 13, 2007 9:09 PM

Two points to consider:

1. She is nowhere as popular as Bill, and will not gather as many votes (% wise),

2. Bill did not get a majority of votes in either election.

It is VERY unlikely Hillary will gather over 50% of the vote.

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